Year 4, Month 9, Day 3: Headin’ For A Fall…

I wonder when Ownership is going to take notice. The Farm Journal:

Drought conditions have rapidly spread and worsened in Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois over the past six weeks, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. But longer term, odds are that conditions will improve in the eastern half of the Corn Belt, while worsening again in the western half, experts say.

This week’s hot, dry weather helped late-planted corn and soybeans catch up, but lack of water could also prevent proper ear filling in non-irrigated corn.

Dug out an old one, filed off the serial numbers, and sent it on. August 29:

It’s harder and harder to reject the evidence for the slow-motion catastrophe of climate change. As Duke Ellington’s old song says, “Things ain’t what they used to be” — and there’s nobody in our society better equipped to recognize this than our nation’s farmers, now reeling from sustained droughts that are approaching Dust Bowl proportions.

But while more people are aware of the problem, much of our agricultural infrastructure is stuck in the past. With equipment and systems belonging to a period of conspicuous consumption, both farming and manufacturing sectors waste unimaginable quantities of water every day — and there’s nothing like a prolonged drought to remind us that it’s not a disposable commodity, but a precious resource.

While technological improvements are essential to properly husband our dwindling water supplies, the most important transformations must be in our collective behavior and attitudes. Climate change’s most important lesson may well be that the era of waste is ended.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 8, Day 20: I CAN’T HEAR YOU!!!!

The Reno News Review (NV) considers the wildfire situation:

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is trying to cope with drought and heat across the West.

And U.S. Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada said Western heat and fires are signs of climate change.

The heat and fires jeopardize the livelihood of ranchers who depend on grazing, and threaten urban areas like Reno that depend on snowpacks for their water supplies.

“Since last fall and winter, we have been working with grazers across the West in anticipation of tough conditions related to drought,” said BLM deputy director Neil Kornze in a prepared statement. “In southwestern Montana, for example, the BLM worked with permitted ranchers to graze no more than 70 percent of their allotted forage on BLM-managed lands. As drought conditions continue, wild horses, livestock, and wildlife that rely on rangeland forage and water will face extremely challenging conditions that may leave them in very poor condition. We are taking action to address these situations as quickly and as effectively as we can, but our options are increasingly limited by conditions on the land.”

In Nevada, the BLM has been trucking 5,000 gallons of water day, five days a week to four locations for wild horses. A veterinarian was expected to be in Lincoln County this week. BLM employees reported that horses were not eating or drinking, raising questions about their health.

“The West is burning,” Reid said in Nevada on July 17. “I could be wrong, but I don’t think we’ve ever had a fire in the Spring Mountains, Charleston range like we just had.”

“The West is being devastated by wildfires,” Reid said a day later in D.C. “Millions of acres are burning. Millions of acres have burned. … They’re occurring all over. Why? Because the climate has changed. The winters are shorter, the summers are hotter.”

La la la la la la la la la la la. July 28:

The sad fact is that as long as the majority of American news media are financially beholden to corporate interests allied with fossil-fuel producers, the grim and compelling evidence of climate change will never be presented on prime-time TV without a protective dose of false equivalence. Here’s how that works:

A petroleum company provides generous funding to a “think tank,” which hires a videogenic person with a degree in a tangentially-related field (statistics, engineering, meteorology), gives them grand-sounding but semantically meaningless title, and equips them with a full array of obfuscatory talking points (“the science isn’t settled,” “action on climate change will damage the economy,” etc.).

When a climatologist is scheduled to appear, TV programs call the think tank, which sends a “Senior Policy Analyst” to provide “the other side of the argument,” thereby creating the impression that there is a legitimate dispute. If this mechanism were in place elsewhere in our national discourse, we’d be hearing from flat-Earthers, lizard-people theorists, faked-moon-landing believers, and adherents of the medieval medical theory of “humors.”

Could this be related to the fact that responsible action on climate change will reduce oil-industry profits by a small but significant margin? I wonder.

Warren Senders


Year 4, Month 6, Day 21: Now Let’s Not Always See The Same Hands….

Dawn, a leading Pakistani newspaper, discusses the climate problem from a Pakistani perspective:

Pakistan is no stranger to being plagued by multiple crises. News headlines are usually dominated by issues like terrorism, extremism and power shortage but an even more alarming danger could affect the future of Pakistan if it is not tackled on a priority basis.

The dangerous threat we all know as climate change has been virtually left off the radar by our less than visionary leaders when it comes to issues of national priority.

Environmental degradation costs Rs 365 billion annually to Pakistan and unsafe water and sanitation costs Rs 112 alone in terms of financial damage.

A comprehensive report was first highlighted in December 2012 which shows alarming trends of climate change in Pakistan.

The report entitled ‘Climate Change in Pakistan – focused on Sindh Province’ forecast low agricultural productivity from lack of water for irrigation and erratic rainfall. Conditions in the fertile Indus delta, already facing saline water intrusion and coastal erosion, are expected to deteriorate further.

Data gathered from 56 meteorological stations show heat waves increasing from 1980 to 2009, a period marked by glacier retreats, steadily rising average temperature in the Indus delta and changes in temperature pattern in summer and winter.

Ghulam Rasul, chief meteorologist at the Pakistan Meteorological Department and the main author of the report, told that although Pakistan’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions is low, it is among countries highly vulnerable to climate change.

Yes indeedy. June 6:

As global heating accelerates, Pakistan and neighboring nations will face enormous challenges in the coming decades. It is a cruel irony that those of the world’s countries which have contributed the least to planetary greenhouse emissions are the ones facing the most immediate damage from their effects, while the major sources of carbon pollution are relatively protected by lucky accidents of geography from the consequences of their actions.

Analysts predict that as water shortages intensify and agriculture becomes less predictable and productive, climate change’s strategic impact will include bitter resource wars, a catastrophic development. While morality demands that industrialized nations take immediate steps to reduce atmospheric carbon output, it’s equally imperative that the countries currently suffering the most from this human-caused destabilization strengthen their infrastructure to prepare for times of shortage and privation, while reinforcing diplomatic and cultural systems to ensure that the likely humanitarian crises can be peacefully resolved.

Warren Senders


Year 4, Month 6, Day 18: Trouble Ahead, Trouble Behind

The Christian Science Monitor offers an analysis of the fires in Southern California:

The Powerhouse fire, which erupted in scrub-covered rugged terrain north of Los Angeles and has blackened 30,000 acres, destroyed 6 homes, and forced the evacuation of thousands of people, is dramatizing the challenges facing states across the West, including a much longer fire season, analysts say.

The Powerhouse fire started last Thursday afternoon and now has 2,200 firefighters battling it on foot, vehicles, and in the air. It spread quickly, feeding on the several-decades-old scrub covering the area’s hills and canyons.

As of Monday morning, authorities said, the fire was 40 percent contained. Officials estimated the fire would not be fully contained for another week. Temperatures Monday were expected to climb into the mid-80s with wind gusts up to 45 mph in the hills and valleys south of Lake Hughes.

Analysts said the large early-season fire creates an opportunity to raise awareness about a long list of issues facing localities, states, and the federal government. Those range from man’s contribution to climate change, to choices of where to build homes, to what safety precautions to take in building those homes and how to enforce them.

Given that as a global society we are not seriously addressing climate change, says Dominik Kulakowski, adjunct professor of biology at Clark University Graduate School of Geography in Worcester, Mass., one good question is, “Is this the new normal?” The public, he says, should conclude not merely that this fire season is predicted to be longer, but that such longer seasons will continue for the foreseeable future.

I just don’t see what any of this has to do with me. . June 4:

As climate change accelerates and intensifies, the frequency and size of forest fires is going to go up — perhaps to the point that “fire season” is the default climate for parts of the world. In a climatically-transformed United States, we will have to direct more money to training, equipment and resources for firefighters, or face a far higher bill for lives lost, property destroyed, and ecosystems obliterated.

Republican lawmakers, fanatically averse to tax increases of any sort, will resist any policy that would increase funding for firefighting professionals, even if it means the final costs will be enormously greater. This penny-wise, pound-foolish approach characterizes conservative responses to every aspect of the climate crisis: rather than admit the existence of a very serious problem and take steps to protect their constituents’ lives from its likely consequences, these anti-science politicians would rather see their own country go up in smoke.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 5, Day 29: Happy Birthday

The Southwest is in for a rough summer. The Albuquerque Journal (NM):

With the preliminary April 1 runoff forecast numbers in hand, this is “the worst year ever” on the Rio Grande, according to Phil King, New Mexico State University professor and the water management adviser to the Elephant Butte Irrigation District. “Ever” in this case translates to a century of water management on the river system through modern New Mexico.

The most likely forecast calls for just 14 percent of the long term average for spring runoff into Elephant Butte Reservoir, according to federal forecasters. That’s not a surprise – King and others were watching the March weather and knew the numbers would be bad. But still… “It hurts to get slugged in the stomach,” King told me this afternoon, “even if you were expecting it.”

EBID will begin releasing what limited water it has to lower Rio Grande farmers beginning in early June, and hope for a big monsoon, King said.

Upstream, farmers in the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District are seeing water already in their ditches, but it’s not clear how long that will last, according to David Gensler, the agency’s water manager. The District will run out of stored water in upstream dams sometime in late June, according to Gensler, after which farmers will depend on whatever meager supply comes from natural river flow.

“This is going to be one of, if not the worst years in memory,” Gensler said.

Synchronicity, I call it. May 17:

While climatology cannot state definitively that this summer’s projected extreme drought is a direct consequence of climate change, observations and analysis do allow us to understand that the burgeoning greenhouse effect is having an alarming impact. For exmple, atmospheric circulation in the northern hemisphere was distorted for several months following the breakdown of the polar vortex, and extreme high pressure above the Labrador sea pushed the normal storm track south of its usual Atlantic position. All of these changes happening across the globe will hardly leave the Southwest untouched, and in fact it looks like a third straight year of tinderbox conditions lies ahead for New Mexico.

Sure, it might be just a “coincidence” that climatologists have predicted just the sort of harsher droughts and extreme weather that are now making headlines. But if so, it’s a coincidence that’s happening all over the world, with steadily increasing frequency and intensity.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 3, Day 16: Pucker Up, Sweetheart

The Norman Transcript (OK) discusses Oklahoma’s drought situation and the measures the State government is taking:

NORMAN — A measure to provide financial assistance to Oklahoma’s agricultural community during droughts passed the Senate unanimously Tuesday.

Senate Bill 996 would create the Emergency Drought Protection Special Fund. Sen. Ron Justice, author of the legislation, says the state’s current drought is a tragic example of why the fund is needed.

“Oklahoma is in one of the worst droughts in state history. Many farmers and ranchers have lost crops and been forced to sell livestock because there simply isn’t enough water to maintain them,” said Justice, R-Chickasha. “Some have even stopped farming or ranching because they couldn’t make ends meet and were near bankruptcy.

“Agriculture is the backbone of our state’s economy. We must do all we can to protect this industry and this fund is one way we can do that.”

The Oklahoma Conservation Commission would maintain the fund, which would consist of certain funds appropriated to it. Monies from the fund could only be spent when the governor declared a drought emergency to exist.

More hatin’ on Inhofe. March 6:

It is a peculiar irony that as Oklahoma’s farmers struggle to cope with one of the worst droughts they’ve ever experienced, the state’s own Senator James Inhofe vociferously denies the existence, severity, and sources of climate change. Why listen to scientists who’ve studied the climate for decades? Why acknowledge that climatologists have long predicted that an accelerating greenhouse effect would put our agricultural sector at risk, prolonging droughts and increasing their intensity? Senator Inhofe won’t be bamboozled by people who actually know what they’re talking about — at least as long as his vehement rejection of scientific expertise continues to be funded by the fossil fuel corporations whose profitability will decline if America finally ends its addiction to their product.

Oklahoma’s parched and cracking soil can’t be persuaded by hefty contributions from big oil. When it comes to the climate crisis, arch-denialist Inhofe turns out to be dumber than dirt.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 4, Day 7: You Get No Bread With One Meat Ball

WICHITA, Kan. — Years of drought are reshaping the U.S. beef industry with feedlots and a major meatpacking plant closing because there are too few cattle left in the United States to support them.

Some feedlots in the nation’s major cattle-producing states have already been dismantled, and others are sitting empty. Operators say they don’t expect a recovery anytime soon, with high feed prices, much of the country still in drought and a long time needed to rebuild herds.

The closures are the latest ripple in the shockwave the drought sent through rural communities. Most cattle in the U.S. are sent to feedlots for final fattening before slaughter. The dwindling number of animals also is hurting meatpackers, with their much larger workforces. For consumers, the impact will be felt in grocery and restaurant bills as a smaller meat supply means higher prices.

Cattle numbers have been falling for years as the price of corn used to feed animals in feedlots skyrocketed. The drought accelerated the process, but many feedlots were able to survive at first because ranchers whose pastures dried up weaned calves early and sent breeding cows to be fattened for slaughter.

Yum. Sent February 25:

Even as the drought hammering the world’s most productive farmland goes into its second year, the anti-science conservatives in American politics and media are still stuck in full-denial mode: there is no drought, and if there is, it’s not caused by climate change, which isn’t happening; even if the climate is changing, it’s not caused by humans, and even if it is, it’s too expensive to do anything about it anyway. Does your head hurt? Mine does.

It’s not just farm states that are waking up to the consequences of an accelerating greenhouse effect. Everywhere across the nation and the world people are realizing that a transformed climate is going to wreak havoc on our food supply, with ripple effects that will radically alter the lives of everyone on the planet.

Eventually, of course, the denialists will have to eat their words. There won’t be anything else left to eat.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 11, Day 27: And The Big Fuel Said To Push On

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch shares a minor local story of no interest to anyone outside the affected area. Oh, wait…

ST. LOUIS • Barge industry leaders on Friday renewed their warnings of far-reaching economic losses in the Midwest if water levels on the Mississippi River continue to drop to levels that disrupt shipping.

Severe drought conditions coupled with the reduced flows expected from the upper Missouri River later this month have prompted the American Waterway Operators and the Waterways Council to warn that river commerce could come to a standstill by early December.

“Slowing down or severing the country’s inland waterway superhighway would imperil the shipment of critical cargo for export, significantly delay products needed for domestic use, threaten manufacturing production and power generation, and negatively impact jobs up and down the river,” said Craig Philip, chief executive officer at Ingram Barge Co., based in Nashville, Tenn.

Philip and other industry officials spoke during a Friday morning news conference in St. Louis, alongside Maj. Gen. John W. Peabody, commander of the Mississippi Valley Division of the Army Corps of Engineers, and Rear Adm. Roy A. Nash, commander of the Coast Guard’s 8th District.

Industry officials are calling on the administration of President Barack Obama to issue a presidential declaration to allow an emergency response to the “crisis.”

Peabody said the Corps of Engineers, which manages the waterways, has been bracing for the latest round of low water since the drought year of 1988. This year, the corps has been involved in “continuous dredging” since July — with up to two dozen dredges operating on the river at one time — and has been storing water where possible.

Move along, folks. Sent November 22:

The Mississippi’s steadily lowering water levels are part of a much larger story. The predicament of barge operators is linked with that of Midwest corn growers who watched helplessly as drought withered their fields, and with Vermont maple trees no longer making enough sap for syrup production. This story includes millions of acres of Colorado forest turned into kindling by invasive pine borer beetles, subsistence farmers in Bangladesh whose meager holdings are submerged by rising sea levels, and island nations now looking at relocating entire populations before their homelands disappear beneath the waves. Don’t forget to include the East coast, still reeling from the impact of superstorm Sandy.

It’s a story of the countless local and regional consequences of global climate change. Each community may feel these impacts differently, but to ignore their connections is to deny our shared humanity — and the future we must all face together.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 10, Day 16: Our Love Is Here To Stay?

The McCook Daily Gazette (NE) reports on a panel discussion featuring a bunch of frantic hippies:

LINCOLN, Nebraska — Things are about to start heating up.

So say a panel of five environmental scholars and professionals, who presented “Climate Change and Nebraska: What Does Our Future Hold?” Saturday at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to warn of the dangers of a potential four-to-10 degree temperature increase in the state.

The speakers examined the scientific evidence for climate change, the impact this could have on the future and the steps that can be taken to assuage it. Robert Oglesby, a professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at UNL, said after considering all the factors, the one that is the cause for most alarm in Nebraska is the reduction of snowpack in the Rocky Mountains.

“We need that steady release of water due to the slow, steady melt of the snow in the spring through early summer to maintain river flow of the Platte,” Oglesby said.

Song Feng, of the School of Natural Resources at UNL, offered a study into the effect droughts have had in the United States and the likelihood of their continuation in the future.

“The drought will become the normal condition by the end of the century,” Feng said.

It’s going to get harder and harder to be a denialist in the years ahead. Won’t stop ’em, though. Sent October 9:

While it makes a good opening for an article on the findings of climate scientists, “things are about to start heating up” is a pretty misleading sentence. The mercury’s been rising for quite a while now, as witness this single statistic: July 2012 was the 329th consecutive month to exceed the global average temperature for the twentieth century. While this increase is bad news for us all, we can still make it worse — by rejecting the reality of global warming, and by blocking action until catastrophic consequences are unavoidable.

It’s impossible to imagine a more cynical and destructive approach to governance than the deny-and-delay strategy that is the modus operandi of conservative politicians when it comes to addressing the climate crisis. Self-styled “deficit hawks” who claim that reducing our greenhouse emissions would be prohibitively expensive are essentially telling us that prevention costs more than cure — a notion both logically absurd and morally bankrupt.

We cannot afford further inaction on climate change.

Warren Senders


Year 3, Month 9, Day 28: We Can Get Down To What Is Really Wrong…

In the Holland Sentinel (MI), Mary Colborn has a personal take on the doom-laden atmosphere:

Call him stubborn. My father, a dairy farmer, cut hay in his fields on a Monday, fully intending to bale it later in the week he was dying from the lung cancer that ravaged his body.

My husband, a Navy officer, was out to sea and my mother kept insisting that my father did not want me to make the trip across the country from Washington state with my small children by myself. “He’s fine,” she kept saying. “He doesn’t want to bother you. I’ll call you if it gets worse.”

He slipped into a coma the day he planned to bale. By the time the call came, it was too late. Everything I did — frantically negotiating a grievance flight, packing the babies and their things, rushing to the airport, transferring three time zones — wasn’t enough. Without the loving arms of hospice, my father died before we landed in Chicago for our connecting flight. I was too late.

That was the feeling that arose this summer when the temperatures soared, when it was 95 degrees in the shade for days on end, when we watched all the crops in nearby fields wither and die, when it stopped raining, and my sister and I struggled to keep alive the first gardens planted on my father’s Allegan farm since he died 22 years ago. We have been in denial for too long and now it is too late.
I came back to Michigan to turn the farm around, to teach the skills that he had taught me, to feed people the way he fed them, to honor him in the best way I knew how and maybe I was too late.

“Breathe, Mary, breathe,” friends said. “Do the next right thing.”

So, when the call came, an e-mail really, that I was chosen to join a thousand people from around the world to train with Al Gore and the Climate Reality Leadership Corps in San Francisco this summer on my own dime, I went. I had already spent part of the summer, when I wasn’t weeding and watering, in D.C. meeting people who had been affected by the adverse effects of carbon extraction.

I listened to people as they cried over the mountains they had lost to mountaintop removal coal mining. I met farmers, ranchers and townspeople who had their water contaminated from hydrofracking. I listened as they related stories of cancer, asthma and high rates of birth defects. I came to see that what is happening with our climate in our thirst for energy as the social justice issue of our lifetime.

Beautiful. Sent September 21:

Our media-driven culture tells us that climate change is somehow a distraction from “the issues that really matter”: Jobs! Wars! The Deficit! Gay marriage! But this is a profound misunderstanding. What really matters is something our species has been doing for hundreds of thousands of years. Passing on our genetic and cultural heritage to our children — and making sure they can to the same for theirs — is more important than any of the fleeting issues that obsess politicians and pundits..

A runaway greenhouse effect threatens the hard-won wisdom of millennia, offering our posterity a dystopian scenario drought, extreme weather, and ecological collapse. A failure to address the likely consequences of our past century of carbon consumption means our descendants will be too busy trying to survive on a suddenly hostile planet to curse us for our inaction. And this is the only issue that really matters.

Warren Senders